Saturday two future Hall of Famers will attempt to silence their
critics and prove that the flame igniting their careers is still ablaze. On the 15th November 2003 many observers believed that Marco Antonio Barrera was finished as a world-class fighter. It looked like the many ring wars had finally caught up with the Mexican star as the more youthful and energetic Manny Pacquiao completely overwhelmed him, while forcing Barrera's corner to
throw in the towel in the 11th round. Nevertheless, Barrera bounced back from the defeat with excellent wins over world-class fighters Paulie Ayala and Erik Morales. However, some critics still maintain that Barrera is on the downslide, claiming that the defeat of bitter rival Morales in 2004 was just a last hurrah.
In the past, legends such as Muhammad Ali, Evander Holyfield, and Ray Leonard have been able to pull off major upsets when in the twilight of their glory days. It remains to be seen if the decision victory over Morales will be remembered as the last great triumph of Barrera's career. Since that night, Barrera easily turned back the challenge of the hapless Mzonke Fana who was clearly out of his depth when suffering a second round knockout defeat.
However, at the MGM Grand Las Vegas this weekend Barrera will face a much stiffer challenge as he defends his WBC 130lb title against the rugged Australian Robbie Peden. The tough contender displayed steely determination in his two recent KO victories against the once highly touted Nate Campbell. In the second meeting with Campbell, Peden would not be denied victory as he unmercifully disrupted the rhythm of his slicker opponent by administering constant pressure and a fair dose of borderline roughhouse tactics. Peden may not be the most skilful boxer around, but he is on a great run of form and has not been defeated since his 2002 TKO loss to the excellent Juan Manuel Marquez. Peden looks to be hitting his peak and will doubtless give Barrera a hard night's work.
It seems that many experts are giving the Aussie a chance against Barrera and in Vegas there has been a surprising amount of late money on the challenger. This seems to have been influenced by Morales' loss to the big underdog Zahir Raheem last week, which may itself be an omen that the Barrera-Morales era is coming to a sudden end. Nevertheless, the hope among most fans is that Peden will bring out the best in Barrera, if the Mexican can still produce it.
On the undercard, former Pound for Pound number one Shane Mosley will attempt to rediscover his best form when he faces the undefeated Jose Luis Cruz. In the eyes of many the 'Sugarman' has been on a downward slope since January 2002 when he was out-boxed by Vernon Forrest.
The fight against Cruz will be his second since his return to the welterweight division. His last fight, a points win over the tough David Estrada, drew mixed reviews as Mosley won clearly, but failed to produce the blistering speed and combinations that were one his trademark.
"In reality Mosley hasn't looked good since 2001 when he stopped the journeyman [Adrian] Stone", remarked Estrada. "He might not have an easy time on Saturday. Remember, Cruz is unbeaten in 32 fights and will be under no pressure. All the expectation will be on Mosley and he'll also be fighting against the pro-Mexican crowd".
Cruz is untested at the top level and may prove to be an easy opponent for Mosley to sparkle against. However, if Mosley makes hard work out of Cruz the din from the critics will leave the 'Sugarman' with a bitter taste in his mouth.
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